Round Hill Mayor Scott Ramsey met with close to 30 out-of-town residents Wednesday night to go over plans to bring their neighborhoods—the 45-home Fallswood subdivision and eight homes along Mystic Lane—into the town limits sometime next year.
The town is also considering bringing the 67-home Brentwood Springs neighborhood into town at the same time.
Ramsey told the residents the small town, which has 240 homes and about 600 residents, can’t continue managing utility services for the 1,400 homes, or 3,400 users, outside the corporate limits. He said the 15-percent-to-85-percent imbalance gets “less and less manageable every year.”
The idea of bringing those three neighborhoods into the town’s corporate limits is part of a larger, phased plan that could see the annexation of the entire 1,400-home Joint Land Management Area—an area surrounding the town where county policies allow the town to provide water and sewer service—into the town limits in the coming years. At buildout, if the town expanded to include the JLMA, there will be 1,865 households within the corporate boundary, increasing the population by more than eight times to about 5,000 residents.
Ramsey said the town’s utility system is designed to handle that growth, although another well may be needed if it eventually serves close to 2,000 households.He also assured the out-of-town residents that the town’s drive to expand isn’t to simply bring in more land and rezone it to add more homes.
The mayor said the expansion should be financially beneficial for the town and the incoming residents, and also build a stronger community.
Bringing more residents into the town means more revenue to help pay for non-utility projects like sidewalks, trails and parks. According to estimates, the town would net about $350 of revenue per new household annually, which would mean it would pull in $42,000 in the first year if it incorporated 120 homes. Out-of-town residents would see their trash pickup fees included in property tax and would get lower utility bills—since in-town water users pay $3.48 less per 1,000 gallons than do out-of-town users and in-town sewer users pay $5.22 less per 1,000 gallons. Existing in-town residents could expect their property taxes to drop by an average of about $100.
“We can come out ahead and you can come out ahead,” Ramsey told the out-of-towners.
A town expansion would also increase the number of residents eligible to run for public office in town and revitalize town elections, since only in-town residents can hold seats on the Town Council, Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.
Since 2002, there have never been more than three candidates on a Town Council ballot and the mayoral seat has been contested only once. In that time, 40 percent of town elections have been decided by write-in votes.
It has been increasingly difficult to recruit town residents to serve. Before the Town Council appointed Paula James to the council on Oct. 24, that vacancy existed for almost four months. The Planning Commission is also still waiting for a resident to apply for a spot that’s been vacant since July 17.
To expand the town limits, the Town Council and county Board of Supervisors would both need to hold public hearings on and vote to approve a boundary line adjustment, which will then go to the Circuit Court for certification.
When a Fallswood resident asked whether property owners in the expansion area would be allowed to vote on the expansion, Ramsey said that although they don’t get a vote, the Town Council would take their opinions into account. Also, if one-third of property owners within the expansion area object to the expansion, the court would uphold the matter.
Ramsey emphasizedthat the county won’t approve the expansion if supervisors feel that the majority of residents in the expansion area are opposed to it. “[The county is] not interested in controversy, either,” he said.
The next meeting on a possible town expansion will be held on Jan. 9 with Brentwood Springs residents. In the meantime, Ramsey is inviting property owners in that neighborhood, and in Fallswood and on Mystic Lane, to request personal meetings with him. He said that if each household were to schedule an individual meeting with him, that alone could take six months to do.
“That’s how much I care about this issue,” he said. “I don’t think we’re on a sustainable path and I want us to get on a sustainable path.”
The last time the town discussed an expansion was in 2017. Those talks stopped when the town’s planning of Sleeter Lake Park picked up and controversy ensued over the town’s consideration to incorporate a short-term expansion area of only 217 homes rather than the entire The Villages at Round Hill community.